Scott Waldman at E&E News recently wrote an article arguing that a group of “dead industrialists” are responsible for funding “climate denialism” among free market groups in the United States. The article focuses on three foundations that have donated to organizations that generally promote a free market approach to energy and the environment. The article explains:

“Foundations formed by now-dead industrialists have been instrumental in promoting rollbacks of regulations that protect the public from deadly air pollution and spreading misinformation around climate science. Fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, the foundations have supported groups that worked with the Trump White House to roll back vehicle emissions standards and to ease restrictions on power plant pollution and water protections, public tax filings show. They have quietly funded presidential advisers who worked to conduct a hostile White House review of climate science and to restrict EPA’s use of scientific research when crafting public health protections.”

The article relies heavily on quotes from Drexel University sociologist Dr. Robert Brulle who has previously accused the fossil fuel industry of using “outsize economic and cultural power to distort the public debate by introducing falsehoods.” Dr. Brulle seems to think that people donating money to support a different perspective on energy and the environment is somehow dangerous. What Dr. Brulle and many others often insinuate is that the only reason anyone would dissent from the progressive orthodoxy on these issues is because of the financial support provided by these foundations. As we have explained in the past, Brulle’s narrative doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. When we actually examine the amount of funding flowing to organizations working on energy and environmental issues, the environmental left looks less like David and their opponents look less like Goliath.

In the recent E&E article, Brulle is quoted arguing that the foundations that support different perspectives on energy and environmental policy are “unaccountable” and that they offer a way for “dead industrialists to transfer economic power into cultural and political power that can last in perpetuity.”  This is a rather amusing statement because the vast majority of the green movement’s funding comes from the exact sort of foundations that Brulle is so concerned about. IER recently updated our Big Green Inc. project, which offers some insight into the influence that “dead industrialists” have on supporting the green movement:

  • From 2008 to 2017 (the year that the most recent tax data is available), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a private foundation founded by Hewlett-Packard cofounder William Redington Hewlett and his wife Flora Lamson Hewlett in 1966, gave $2,652,295,873 to hundreds of environmental groups, most of which advocate for top-down, command-and-control environmental policies.
  • Sebastian Kresge, an American businessman who founded two chains of department stores (one of which became the Kmart Corporation in 1977), founded the Kresge Foundation in Detroit, Michigan in 1924. From 2008 to 2017 the Kresge Foundation has given $243,534,004 to similar groups.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation, was started by Standard Oil owner John D. Rockefeller Sr., along with his son John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Senior’s principal oil and gas business and philanthropic advisor, Frederick Taylor Gates, in 1913. From 2008 to 2017, the Rockefeller Family has given $199,235,386 to similar groups.
  • The Howard Heinz Endowment was established in 1941 from the estate of Howard Heinz, a businessman who had served as president of the H. J. Heinz Co. From 2008 to 2017, the Heinz Endowments gave $133,954,907 to similar groups.

Of course, the green movement also benefits from the wealth of people who are still alive today.

  • Bloomberg Philanthropies, a philanthropic organization that encompasses all of the charitable giving of founder Michael Bloomberg, donated $155,367,290 to similar organizations.
  • During that same time period, the Schmidt Family Foundation, a private foundation created in 2006 by Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google, has given $118,127,615 to environmental causes.

In total, IER’s Big Green Inc. project has documented well over $5 billion dollars flowing from 17 foundations to hundreds of environmental groups from 2008 to 2017. Of course, this represents only a small fraction of the amount of money that environmental groups have received over the years as there are hundreds of similar foundations that provide billions of dollars in support for the green movement. These foundations seem to largely favor progressive environmental policies, which do little to actually protect the environment, and instead, raise regulatory costs and serve as barriers to entry to protect established players. So if Dr. Brulle wants to suggest that we should be concerned about the influence of “dead industrialists” on today’s debates over the environment, we’re not going to stop him.

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